Speed date – The future of the high-performance segment

Huge image value and an important contribution to profitability – the high-performance segment holds special significance for Audi. So how is it responding to the automotive megatrends of electrification and hybridization? These appear to be at odds with lightweight construction, performance and the emotional sound of combustion models. Maurizio Reggiani, Head of Development at Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., and Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH, explain how they tackle the issue. Two men, two cars, two solutions.

03/18/2021 Copy: Dorothea Kauf ― Photos & videos: graupause  Reading Time: 10 min

Key Facts

  • Crisis-proof, high-performance segment: 2020 was the best second half-year in the history of the company at Lamborghini; +16 percent delivered R and RS models in 2020 at Audi Sport
  • Lamborghini Sián Roadster1: most powerful Lamborghini of all time and the first with the mild-hybrid system
  • Lamborghini electrifies future models and uses reliable, light supercapacitors as energy accumulators
  • The Audi RS e-tron GT is the most powerful and the first electric RS model on the market; Audi is therefore the first premium manufacturer among the competition to offer an all-electric, high-performance model in series production
  • Three levels of electrification ensure the viability of the Audi Sport portfolio

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Electrification for supercars

Whenever Maurizio Reggiani’s timetable allows, the technology boss at Automobili Lamborghini gives himself a short break. He then walks a few steps from his office to the MUDETEC, the in-house museum of the brand with the bull logo. This museum is not simply about the legacy of previous development directors.

Reggiani can also sense the future here. Alongside legends of the past – such as the Miura, the first Lamborghini powered by a rear-mounted, transverse V12 engine – there are concept cars such as the Terzo Millennio. The study provides a glimpse of what a future Lamborghini might look like: fully electric, with wheel hub motors and nano energy stores incorporated into the bodywork.

“The Terzo Millennio completely redefines the concept of the supercar,” remarks Reggiani. “At the start of its development I felt like a child skimming a stone over the water surface and eagerly waiting to see how far it bounces.” He describes the Terzo Millennio as the boldest concept of an electric Lamborghini that he can currently imagine. So when might it become a reality? “I see this concept car as a checkered flag in a rather distant future – hence its name Terzo Millennio, or third millennium,” explains Reggiani. “There are many more milestones to pass before we get there.”

Sián, bull of superlatives

  

One such milestone stands on the forecourt of the museum in Sant’Agata Bolognese: the Lamborghini Sián Roadster. 1 A bull of superlatives. Starting with its visionary design – all the way to its sheer power. 819 PS of system output make the Sián the most powerful series-production Lamborghini ever built. Thanks to intelligent materials, it achieves an exceptionally low power-to-weight ratio 2 and the best acceleration of any Lamborghini approved for road use.

The Sián is a statement in the shape of an automobile. Its design polarizes opinion. Its name – which is Bolognese dialect for “lightning flash” – is an initial pointer to the innovation beneath the hood. It is the first electrified Lamborghini, a mild hybrid. Not that you would really notice that from the outside. A V12 engine shimmers through the glass engine cover. “You need to feel this car to understand it,” comments Reggiani, and swings himself into the sport seat for a test drive.

New technology: supercapacitors

A short half-hour drive north of the company headquarters and the development chief has reached his destination: the Autodromo di Modena, a nearby test track. This is where the Sián 1 shows what it is made of. One moment the Lamborghini is poised and waiting at the starting line, the next it has shot forward like a projectile out of a catapult. After 2.8 seconds it touches 100 km/h. Its acceleration: quite surreal. The gearshifts? Imperceptible.

The transmission houses a 34 PS, 48-volt electric motor that keeps the acceleration smooth and enhances traction. The energy for the electric motor is supplied by supercapacitors – a special form of storage battery. They achieve around three times the per-formance of lithium-ion batteries with the same weight and are more durable, even under high load.

Redefining the rules

  

“For us, taking this technology into series production marks a big step towards electrification,” adds Reggiani. “Acceleration and therefore also the power-to-weight ratio are important issues for our customers. Heavy batteries stand in the way of this.” That is why Lamborghini is adopting a different tack. Supercapacitors weigh roughly a third of lithium-ion batteries with the same capacity. An ideal basis on which to transplant supercar DNA into the age of electric mobility. “Lamborghini has always been some-thing of a provocateur. We don’t conform to established ways of doing things. We redefine the rules – and electric mobility is no exception.”

While the mild hybrid drive in the Sián 1 may initially be simply about improving acceleration, it shows there is no contradiction between driving pleasure and electrification, between low power-to-weight ratio and high electrical output. The next challenge? To move the supercars to plug–in hybrid architecture, without losing out on driving pleasure and performance. “We’ll pair the emotional V12 engine with an electric drive,” says Reggiani. The result will be reduced CO₂ emissions and the possibility of part-electric driving. Meanwhile, customers will not need to forgo the emotional, traditional sound of 12 cylinders.

Research for the future

If they are to find use in supercars in the future, lithium-ion batteries will need to deliver more energy per kilogram. Only light batteries will avoid having a significant adverse impact on performance. “As part of Audi and Volkswagen, this is where we benefit from Group-wide research. We’re able to evaluate various battery technologies centrally for all brands.”

The area of supercapacitors is being pioneered by the manufacturer in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2019, they jointly filed a patent application for innovative synthetic materials as the basis for a new generation of supercapacitors. In another partnership they are conducting research into new design principles. These are all about integrating the materials for high-performance batteries into the vehicle structure, as on the Terzo Millennio concept car.

Its plans for electrification will help Lamborghini lead the super-car segment into the future. Maurizio Reggiani promises: “We have our sights firmly set on the Terzo Millennio as our long-term goal.”

Success amid the crisis

Automobili Lamborghini delivered 7,430 cars worldwide in 2020, a decrease of only nine percent compared with the previous year. The slight drop is attributable to the 70-day production shut-down in the spring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In contrast, the second six months saw record sales figures, resulting in the best second half-year for deliveries to customers in the company’s history. For 2021, over half of its production capacity is already spoken for.

Chief Technical Officer at Lamborghini

Chief Technical Officer at Lamborghini

Maurizio Reggiani

Maurizio Reggiani (62) has been Chief Technical Officer at Lamborghini since 2006, where he is in charge of developing long-term strategies, including body and chassis technologies, powertrains, suspension and electronics. From January 2011, he also took over in charge of the Centro Stile Lamborghini and, since 2013, has been responsible for the Motorsport division of Lamborghini. Under the direction of Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini launched the Aventador and Huracán, and with the Urus ventured into the Super SUV segment.

The electric revolution

At the same time, about 600 kilometers further north, Julius Seebach is on his way to his next meeting. As the managing director of Audi Sport GmbH since 2019, he has to shuttle between the company’s head office in Neckarsulm and the head-quarters of Group parent Audi in Ingolstadt. His favorite travel-ing companion at the moment? A low Gran Turismo with four fiery red rings. The four-door model unfurls 646 PS (475 kW) in boost mode. It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.3 seconds. Never before has Audi Sport put a more powerful series-production model onto the market.

But that is not the only thing that makes this car revolutionary. It is also the first fully electric RS model. Seebach visibly swells with pride: “Audi Sport is all about high performance. With the RS e-tron GT, we are taking the RS DNA into the electric age. So in our competitive field, we are the first German premium manufacturer to go into series production with an all-electric high-performance model.”

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.8–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.8–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

New dimension for RS

Seebach still remembers his first test drive with the new model well: “I was skeptical, excited and expectant all at the same time.” The electric RS won him over after just one lap. “I climbed out and thought: Something momentous is happening. And it’s going to be great!” Performance and electrification? Not a contradiction for Seebach. Quite the opposite, in fact: “They complement each other perfectly. Electrification makes our portfolio future-proof. And it will delight our customers because it creates an entirely new dimension of a sporty driving experience.”

He has been driving the RS e-tron GT for several weeks and has now really got to know the qualities of an electric car: “I love the rich sound of the V8 biturbo in the RS 6.4 But now – with the electric GT – I notice even more intensely how it drives.” He is also impressed with its everyday usability. Whether for business meetings, weekend shopping trips or a family excursion, the RS e-tron GT is always the right choice. This electric model is a unique blend of elegance, dynamics and driving pleasure.

Electric – in motorsport, too

  

The managing director and his GT have a special destination today: the Audi Motorsport headquarters in Neuburg an der Donau. Since March 2019, Audi Sport GmbH has consolidated not just the development of R and RS models, the Audi exclusive customization program and the Audi collection, but also all motor-sport activities of the brand with the Four Rings. As managing director and the person in charge of Audi Motorsport, Seebach is pushing the strategic repositioning in motorsport.

Since 2014, the brand with the Four Rings has also been championing electric drive in motorsport through Formula E. This has helped the company gather important findings that will also benefit electric mobility in series development. Audi is now seeking to take on fresh challenges through its latest prototype: For the first time, its alternative drive concept combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter. Audi plans to compete with this vehicle in the Dakar Rally through the desert. Yet again its aim is to be a pioneer in motorsport. What better platform to choose than one of the toughest rallies in the world? “That’s where we develop the technologies for series production in extreme conditions,” explains Seebach.

Image carrier for the brand

Already available in the series-production Audi RS e-tron GT: intelligent thermal management for the electric motors. This makes the output highly reproducible so that sporty acceleration without power losses is available at any time and for repeated bursts. Air suspension, controlled damping and all-wheel steering provide the requisite quality of ride comfort. A range of more than 450 kilometers and high-performing charging at 270 kW that keeps stops for charging brief make the Gran Turismo suit-able for long-distance driving. “This is understatement coupled with superb performance,” declares Seebach. “The RS e-tron GT is always ready to perform and is utterly electrifying.” This electric Audi has nothing to prove. But they can if needed.

The proof comes on the first straight after leaving Ingolstadt city limits. The sports car accelerates continuously up to the 100 km/h speed limit. Time to make the most of its electric boost – for a short time at least, with the next bend right ahead. Even then, the GT makes an impressive display of its on-road power. Because the battery under the vehicle floor gives it a low center of gravity. Thanks to optimum roadholding, the coupé takes the bend dynamically. Julius Seebach: “The dynamics of the RS e-tron GT, its precision and high efficiency make it an image carrier and characterful pioneer that will shape the future of the Audi brand.”

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.8–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi e-tron GT quattro: Power consumption, combined*: 19.6–18.8 kWh/100km (NEDC); 21.8–19.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Three stages of electrification

How will this future look? Electrified! Seebach is convinced of that. But it will come in different stages: “We already offer the Audi RS 6 Avant,4 RS 7 Sportback and RS Q8 with mild-hybrid technology based on a 48-volt electrical system.” The result is increased com-fort and efficiency. In the RS models, the electric belt-driven starter alternator lends this technology extra starting performance. Audi is the first manufacturer to have taken this technology into series production in the high-performance segment.

Plug-in hybrids represent another step. They offer scope for all-electric driving combined with an internal combustion engine. All-electric models will complete the portfolio.

This electrification strategy is the basis for the sustainability of the Audi Sport models. So will every RS soon come with a charging cable? “We’d like to offer our customers a suitable model in every segment,” says Seebach, who promises: “We will continue to put models with combustion engine onto the market in the future. Step by step we’ll enrich them with the emotional appeal and performance that electric drive makes possible. The RS e-tron GT shows how passionate the mobility of the future can be.”

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi RS 6 Avant: Fuel consumption, combined*: 11.6–11.5 l/100kmCO₂ emissions, combined*: 265–263 g/km

Audi RS e-tron GT: Power consumption, combined*: 20.2–19.3 kWh/100km (NEDC); 22.5–20.6 kWh/100km (WLTP)CO₂ emissions, combined*: 0 g/km

Audi RS 6 Avant: Fuel consumption, combined*: 11.6–11.5 l/100kmCO₂ emissions, combined*: 265–263 g/km

Julius Seebach

Julius Seebach

Julius Seebach (37) began his career with AUDI AG in 2015. He has been with Audi Sport GmbH since 2017 and was appointed its managing director on May 1, 2019. Under his aegis the subsidiary of AUDI AG has realized the biggest inter-national model initiative in its history, pushed ahead with its electrification strategy and consolidated all motorsport activities of the Audi brand under one roof. In addition, Seebach assumed responsibility for Audi Motorsport on December 1, 2020.

Record year

With over 29,300 R and RS models delivered, 2020 was a record year for Audi Sport GmbH despite the coronavirus pandemic. That is a clear gain of more than 16 percent on the previous year. Audi Sport GmbH recently completed the biggest model initiative in its history. With 13 R and RS models on offer, it now has its youngest and largest portfolio ever. With effect from March 1, 2021, Dr. Sebastian Grams is taking over in charge of the series-production range of Audi Sport GmbH. Julius Seebach is increasingly advancing the strategic realignment of motorsport activities.

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